Category Archives: People

Tom Wilson Shares a Stirring Story of Family Secrets Mixed With Songs

by Bill Monahan
Feature Photo by Donna Harper

On Tuesday, Feb. 20th, CROW Bar and Variety in Collingwood is presenting the first of “The Crow Sessions” dinner shows, where they bring an artist who combines story with song and encourage the audience to, as Steven Vipond puts it, “Shut up and listen.”  These shows are special enough for the audience to set aside their chatter and do just that.

And the kickoff in the series is very special by any measure.  Tom Wilson of Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, will talk about his memoir, “Beautiful Scars” and sing songs related to the story.

“I’m kind of out for the next year-and-a-half or so concentrating on doing  what I call literary recitals, consisting of either what I’ll be doing in Collingwood which is piano accompaniment and myself, all the way up to a 21-piece orchestra which I did last month in Hamilton and will be doing in Ottawa and Calgary, etc.  This is me being able to combine the story of my book along with the music that I’ve been writing for the last year around the book.”

And what a compelling story that book contains.  Since its release last year by Doubleday, “Beautiful Scars” (the book, not to be confused with the song or the album of the same name that Tom has recorded) has impressed critics.

H2O Quenches Headbanger Thirst

There’s a new music spot in downtown Owen Sound that will feature hard rock, metal and grunge, bringing in bands in those genres while they provide a platform for local bands of the same ilk.

The H2O Lounge is located on 2nd Avenue East, just down the block from Heartwood Hall and The Bleeding Carrot.  I’ve seen it sitting there for a while and wondered water they doing in there (pun intended).  I heard about some bands playing there and then what really got my attention was a Riot Grrrl night headlined by Pantychrist.  It struck me as an unusual offering in downtown Owen Sound, surely filling a niche.  I noticed it was an event created by Banding Together Promotions.

It turns out that Banding Together is mainly one guy, Raymond King. His band, Killing Clarence will be headlining a big anti-Valentine metal grunge show at H2O on the 14th.

“Originally my idea for Banding Together started in 2014 when I lived in North Bay,” says Ray, “My friend’s uncle was diagnosed with bladder cancer and he was given three months to live.  They didn’t have any money and they weren’t prepared for it so we set up a fund raiser and we just called it Banding Together.  From there the idea kind of stuck because it was a huge success.  We were able to help them out a lot.  We made $12,000 for them.”

Damon Fowler Has Earned A Big Reputation Among Guitarists

by Bill Monahan

Blues fans can find respite from the frigid winter weather this weekend, warming up to Southern Blues sounds of young blues phenom Damon Fowler, performing Saturday with his power trio at the Simcoe Street Theatre in Collingwood.

As a genre, authentic blues is in good hands these days with a cohort of young players who have the knack of infusing this venerated music with a respectful blend of its roots and personal feeling.  In this area just this past year, we’ve enjoyed exceptional blues from young artists Conor Gains and Jenie Thai, and now Damon Fowler brings another exciting performer to watch.

A Florida native, Fowler began playing guitar at the age of twelve.  One of his earliest influences was Jeff Healey.  He quickly developed a style that is equal parts tradition and originality, applying it to acoustic and electric guitar, dobro and lap steel, with an emphasis on slide work.  He began gigging as a support act and attracted enough notice that his first, self-released album was produced by Rick Derringer.

As a solo he opened for artists that included several blues legends such as Delbert McClinton, Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, Edgar Winter, Jeff Beck, and many more.  His reputation spread.

Scott Merritt Emerges From The Cottage

by Bill Monahan (photo courtesy of Randy Sutherland)

If you are someone who recognizes the name Scott Merritt as a songwriter of promise from the 1980’s who toured with Jane Siberry and recorded with Daniel Lanois, then it’s as if you’ve been let in on a special secret.

Despite releasing only three albums in the past twenty-five years, Scott Merritt is still considered one of Canada’s best and most underappreciated singer-songwriters.

After some commercial airplay of his early songs, he was signed to Duke Street in Canada and IRS Records internationally.  Unfortunately both labels folded not long afterward.   A legal mess with IRS prevented him from recording for several years but he wasn’t entirely frustrated with the situation.  He hadn’t been particularly comfortable being marketed as a commodity.

“Yeah, my hands were tied, but I wasn’t in much of a mood to raise a stink to be honest,” he explained to Innerviews, “I had become SCOTT MERRITT in capital letters and it didn’t feel real anymore. There was a toxic feeling to it at an artistic level. So, I.R.S. had me in a position, but I wasn’t in any position to record anyway. I didn’t want to go back into that factory. I had really got to a place where it wasn’t fun and I had to promise to myself — something most of us do, but never keep — when it’s not fun to do, do something else for a while. So, at the time, the idea of a career wasn’t very attractive. I lost my taste for it.”

Since those early days, when promising record deals bloomed and withered with the vagaries of the business, Scott Merritt has spent most of his time working as a producer in his Guelph studio that he calls The Cottage.  Artists like Suzie Vinnick, Stephen Fearing, and others have made their pilgrimage to The Cottage for his producing services.

While he has released relatively few records in his career what they have in common is that every one has been greeted by effusive critical praise for an artist whose music and lyrics both come from a unique and moving place.

When he was young and riding high, Scott Merritt had a reputation and something of a guitar and effects wizard which stood alongside his reputation for evocative and poetic lyrics.  He never thought of himself as a commercial artist.  It took him by surprise when his second independent album “Serious Interference” in 1981 ended up on some commercial radio playlists and labels came calling.  The tours and awards were short-lived and strangely unsatisfying.